Looking to hire technical talent for your startup? This might help


There is no question that hiring is one of the biggest problems that a startup faces. In this age of technology, every startup needs a technology backbone, but hiring a technical team can be a pain. “I think recruiting is the most important function in a startup. One cannot afford deadweight and unmotivated team members. People make your startup,” says Pratyush Prasanna, Founder of Plustxt, which went on to be acquired by One97. While building your team for the first time, one is prone to making mistakes and it is always best to know what others in the same situation are doing.

We spoke to three startups to find out about their hiring strategy, and here’s what they had to say:

Sampad Swain, Founder of Instamojo:

They follow a four-step process before extending an offer letter.
Step 1: Request for initial information, including code/design samples (if it’s an engineering/design recruitment).
Step 2: After evaluation of the above, the candidate gets on a telephonic round with an Instamojo personnel.
Step 3: Face-off meeting or a skype call to evaluate the candidate’s answers and on-the-spot Q&A.

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Step 4. Culture-fit test.

For Sampad, getting a culture fit is very important. They spend a lot of time together to understand if both parties fit really well. Instamojo also looks for folks who are very good at communication and assertive on top of being superior at the skill for which he or she is being selected. The whole process takes a maximum of 15 days.

Pratyush Prasanna, VP at One97 Communications

As far as sourcing goes, Pratyush says that One97 sources from “everyone under the sun” — be it recruiters or social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. They ensure about 80% candidates are eliminated at resume stage to optimize on time spent per candidate.

They follow a typical Google/Microsoft type product company hiring methodology:

  • One round of telephonic interview focussing on algorithms and problem solving + minimal technology details.
  • The next 3-4 rounds F2F (Face to Face) or over VC (Voice Conference) with deeper algorithm questions and deep dives into at least 1-2 technical areas the candidate has worked on.
  • A go/no-go decision is conveyed within 2-3 days once all the interview feedback is collated. Each person interviews independently and shares with the HR team to maintain sanctity of opinion.

Pratyush lays emphasis on hiring smart people. Mistakes do happen, so one shouldn’t waste too much time in firing as well because a wrong fit isn’t good for either of the parties.

Rajat Upadhyaya, Tech Lead, Urban Ladder

For open positions, Urban Ladder comes up with job descriptions which go out on their careers page, and other channels. These are also sent to headhunters who source candidates according to requirements. Once the resumes start pouring in, Urban Ladder follows the following process:

  • The profiles are put into 3 buckets – Yes, No & Maybe. Eventually, all profiles are sorted into either the Yes or No buckets. The profiles in the Yes bucket are contacted for a telephonic interview.
  • The telephonic interview is used to roughly assess communication skills, cultural fit, work/academic experience.
  • Candidates who clear the phone screening are invited to the office for a few rounds of personal interviews.
  • During these multiple rounds of personal interviews, the candidate get to meet a subset of the team along with people from other teams with whom they will need to interact on a day-to-day basis. During these interviews, Urban Ladder assesses programming skills, logical and analytical abilities, approach to problem-solving and conceptual technical knowledge. A candidate is also asked to implement a small feature or solve a problem and send the source code for further evaluation.

Rajat also stresses on the importance of smartness, drive/motivation and cultural fit. These are more important than a candidate’s skills. “Skills can be picked up or taught — the other attributes are much harder to come by.”

Apart from the process, there are a few specific questions that can be useful:

What industry sites and blogs do you read regularly?
Do you prefer to work alone or on a team?
What are a few of your favourite development tools and why?
What skills and technologies are you the most interested in improving upon or learning?
What are some of the products you admire and why?
What’s your favourite development language and why? What other features (if any) do you wish you could add to this language?
What web browser do you use?
(more here)

We, at YourStory. also conduct events like the Startup Jobs Fair to ease out the problem and help startups hire. Do tell us if you have specific tricks that worked while recruiting technical talent?

About the author

Jubin is an old timer at YourStory. Deeply entrenched in the Indian startup ecosystem, he has written about and analysed more than 1000 startups. He operates from the mountains in Dharamshala where he plays with technology, farming and eco-construction. He can be reached on Twitter @jub_in and on mail at jubin@yourstory.com

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